Stern Produce Company said it vows to continue to be "family owned and privately held" after its owner died in a small plane crash in California on Saturday.
William A. Stern was piloting a homebuilt airplane that crashed in a San Diego County nature preserve. Stern, his 53-year-old wife Jennifer and their 19-year-old daughter Katey were killed in the crash.
Witnesses saw the single-engine plane go down and strike a hillside Saturday in the Sycamore Canyon Open Space Preserve near Santee.
FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said the four-seat Lancair IV-P had departed from San Diego's Montgomery Field en route to Deer Valley Airport in Phoenix.
A statement from Stern Produce dated Dec. 31 reads:
"On Saturday, Stern Produce Company lost a great leader. Our owner and president Bill Stern died in a tragic plane crash along with his wife and daughter. The accident happened just outside of San Diego as they were traveling back home to Phoenix.
"While there are many questions left to answer regarding the accident itself, there are no questions regarding the future of our company.
"With Bill's leadership and planning we will maintain our current high level of customer service, quality products and operations to our customers. We will continue to be a family owned and privately held company.
"We lost a tremendous leader and friend and will honor Bill by continuing the vision, focus and traditions he established. While our hearts are heavy, we will continue in the direction set forth by Bill.
"The Stern Family and all the team at Stern Produce thank our loyal customers and the entire community for their thoughts and prayers."
The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash.
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